As advertised, Big Ears 2019 was a guitar extravaganza. My wife Liz and I were able to see Bill Frisell, David Torn, Mary Halvorson, Anthony Pirog, and Rafiq Bhatia, some of them multiple times, as well as other, non-guitar improvising legends and newcomers. Once again, venues like the Tennessee Theater, The Bijou Theater, The Standard, and The Mill and the Mine offered stellar sound quality and sight lines, and the local food was fabulous.
Can’t wait to see this guy at Big Ears in March.
I am heartened by how it gets harder and harder to pick the best of the year. It means that there are more and more great records of modern guitar being issued all the time. This year was made a little easier by the fact that veteran masters like David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Eivind Aarset all appeared on one or more records. The list is rounded out by younger players like Julian Lage, Max Kutner, and Anthony Pirog, as well as the introduction of new faces: Justus West, Rafiq Bhatia, and Igor Osypov.
If you are a fan of modern guitar, Knoxville, Tennessee is without doubt the place to be March 21-24, 2019. The lineup at last year’s Big Ears Festival was terrific, but this year’s crop of modern guitar mastery is even more bountiful. Get your tickets and reserve your rooms soon. For starters, Bill Frisell is performing in two contexts.
This round of picks should interest lovers of the noisier aspects of modern guitar, with releases by Hans Tammen and Reg Bloor dwelling largely in a world of pure sound, as well as Eivind Aarset fans who love to hear him in new contexts.